Tfitoby's Reviews > The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
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Mar 07, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favourites, black-as-night
Read from March 07 to 09, 2012


The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ranked #9 on my Top 10 Reads in 2012

Blurb: With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter.

Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it's Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What's the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn't have a clue, but he'll need to get one if he's going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again

Thoughts: This book is fantastic. I was blown away from the start and didn't want to stop reading until I'd gotten to the end. It transcends genres and categorisation but in the end I'd say it was literature because of the over-arching story of how one man deals with an horrific event that happened in his past.

The character of Web is so real, his voice addictive and funny and his adventure in to the world of crime scene cleanup is a highly entertaining surface for the emotional journey he takes. But it is not just Web that is well written it is everyone in the ragtag bunch of people he comes in to contact with thanks to his new job. Guys, girls, they all have a purpose for the story but they also are rounded and true with unique voices in addition to that purpose.

There are some really grizzly no holds barred descriptive passages of violence and crime scenes; one early on was so vividly described I felt as if the stench was on the air and forced my imagination to calm down before it made me vomit.

And it really is funny, so many laugh out loud moments that seemed in tune with that excellent TV show Archer, and it's not vulgar or in poor taste, the jokes are not at the expense of victims of crime as it might have been easy to do, the humour comes from the honest human reactions and interactions.

I can't sing this books praises highly enough, well worth the read, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in the last 12 months, right up there with the very excellent and in some ways similar Savages.

HBO developed a pilot based on this book but it never got aired or picked up, I find this slightly disappointing as obviously it has a lot of potential for recurring characters and long running storylines in the world of crime scene cleanup. Think The Sopranos meets Sunshine Cleaning.

Originally posted at Blahblahblahgay
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03/07/2012 page 79
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Kemper "Think The Sopranos meets Sunshine Cleaning."

Exactly. I read this one a few years back and I've got the itch to go back to it now.


message 2: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I've already got it on my shelf, a nice signed copy. I will be getting to this book in 2013. Great review Toby. You've increased my anticipation.


Tfitoby Kemper wrote: ""Think The Sopranos meets Sunshine Cleaning."

Exactly. I read this one a few years back and I've got the itch to go back to it now."


Obviously I found out way after it happened but I'm still disappointed that the show didn't get aired/picked up for a full season. Great book and great concept.


Tfitoby Jeffrey wrote: "I've already got it on my shelf, a nice signed copy. I will be getting to this book in 2013. Great review Toby. You've increased my anticipation."

Thanks Jeffrey, this one was written back in March and I was still getting in to writing better reviews back then. I guess my sheer enthusiasm for the book carried me through.

We had stacks of these from a remaindered book company in our secondhand shop and nobody was buying them, in the end I took a chance and the rest as they say is history. Naturally it became the book I sold more times than anything else, again my enthusiasm carried me through.


Tfitoby You notice I didn't mention you subtly dropping in to conversation about that signed copy? I'm refraining from commenting on my jealousy from now on ;)


message 6: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Tfitoby wrote: "You notice I didn't mention you subtly dropping in to conversation about that signed copy? I'm refraining from commenting on my jealousy from now on ;)"

Haha well lucky you. My wealth is tied up in books. By buying that book on remainder you saved a pile of cabbage and still had a wonderful experience with the book sans signature.

Good call on Gun Crazy from 1950. The Netflix sleeve had it wrongly attributed to 1949. The facial expressions of the actress in that movie were simply diabolical. Nice camera work as well from unusual angles. Many shots for the audience to feel like they were sitting in the back seat of the getaway car. Even had some camera work from below looking up at their faces as they are driving. Just a surprisingly interesting movie.


Tfitoby Oh yeah it broke new ground in cinematography terms, the back of car stuff especially well done for the period. Good spot. I wouldnt have noticed if i hadnt been watching chronologically. Its quite possible that it was a 1949 and Netflix was right, it might have just made it in to cinemas late whilst they found the right program for it. Classic Hollywood programming is a whole other fascinating history for film buffs.


message 8: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Tfitoby wrote: "Oh yeah it broke new ground in cinematography terms, the back of car stuff especially well done for the period. Good spot. I wouldnt have noticed if i hadnt been watching chronologically. Its quite..."

What must watch films would you recommend from that 1950 batch of noir films?


Tfitoby D.O.A. which is legally available free from the Internet Archive.
In A Lonely Place doesn't go as far as Hughes does in her novel by all accounts but is still unique in the films noir we've seen.
Sunset Boulevard obviously.
Asphalt Jungle was Ms Monroe's big break.

There are more but these are probably the best of the bunch.


message 10: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Tfitoby wrote: "D.O.A. which is legally available free from the Internet Archive.
In A Lonely Place doesn't go as far as Hughes does in her novel by all accounts but is still unique in the films noir we've seen.
S..."

In a Lonely Place is great. I've seen the Denise Quaid version of D.O.A., but I don't think I've seen the original. I've seen Sunset Boulevard. How cool Asphalt Jungle has Sterling Hayden. I have a first signed by Hayden of his book
Wanderer. I know you don't have to acknowledge that part. haha I'm moving that one up the queue


Tfitoby I read a review of that book recently I think, fascinating man.

You're clearly on top of your noir watching, do see the original D.O.A., it's one of the important B-pictures alongside Detour.
I'll give you the rest of our selection from 1950 as the last batch gave you nothing new:
Night and the City
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Dark City



message 12: by Jeffrey (last edited Dec 07, 2012 02:21PM) (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Tfitoby wrote: "I read a review of that book recently I think, fascinating man.

You're clearly on top of your noir watching, do see the original D.O.A., it's one of the important B-pictures alongside Detour.
I'll..."

Have you seen Pickup on South Street another Widmark film? Dark City is on streaming...score.


Tfitoby Wonderful film. Samuel Fuller made some very, very good, gritty noirs. 1953 only featured twice on the list but boy were they good films. The other was a little picture called The Big Heat.


message 14: by Ctgt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ctgt Curse you Tfitoby! Every time I turn around you are recommending another title that goes right on my to-read pile. I'm not sure I'll ever get through my list.


;)Thanks!


Tfitoby Ha! You should try being me, the trauma and melodrama I go through in trying to choose what to read next from the masses of books bought with my great taste verges on creating enough energy to destroy the world. Yep I am the book choosing equivalent of a Large Hadron Collider.


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